The Young Man and the Sea
Tatler Hong Kong|September 2021
Lance Lau is part of a new generation fighting for climate action in Hong Kong
Lauren James

When Lance Lau Hin-yi organised his first beach clean-up, no one turned up. In hindsight, he understood why: a hasty social media post just days before a planned event wasn’t quite the citywide rallying cry the then ten-year-old had hoped. Nevertheless, the day came, and Lance and his parents, Martina Yu and Gabriel Lau went from their home on Lantau Island to a nearby mangrove tangled with manmade detritus. When it was clear no others were joining, the family of three made a go of it anyway. It was disappointing yet catalyzing for Lance, who, after watching a video on plastic waste by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, decided to join the cause. One year after Thunberg’s first “school strike for climate” in August 2018, which would go on to become the global Fridays for Future movement, Lance decided to use Fridays to raise awareness at his school, Ying Wa Primary.

Since then, photos of Lance’s round, bespectacled face and handmade signs urging “climate action now” have become synonymous with youth activism in Hong Kong. He is a familiar presence at clean-ups and rallies and was named a “climate hero” by the local press. Since September 2019, Lance has spent Fridays sounding the alarm at his school and, during the lockdown, in his neighborhood to anyone who will listen. “I felt I had to keep my strike going and try to make a difference. And sitting at home doesn’t really make a difference,” he says.

During a pandemic that has disrupted the world and forced people to change the way they communicate, not least warranting this interview to be conducted via video call, much of Lance’s activism has been conducted online. Tatler met Lance, now 12, the night before his 93rd strike, the last of his primary school years and his final term-time demonstration in Hong Kong. On a rainy night, Lance appeared in an avocado coloured T-shirt in the family’s cluttered, colorful study in their Tung Chung home. He didn’t beat around the bush.

“If we don’t solve this problem, we’re gonna die,” he said, adding that Thunberg’s video left him with “no choice” but to spread the message. “I have to do it. It’s my future, it’s our future, the future of humanity.”

In May 2019, more than 1.5 million young people in more than 125 countries walked out of schools, colleges, and universities in the biggest day of global climate action ever. The UN secretary-general António Guterres endorsed the school strikes, saying: “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.” It brought to light the uncomfortable reality that while climate change is well-publicized, few societies are willing to take meaningful steps to combat it, and individuals often feel too insignificant to influence change.

When Lance was ten, he was invited to speak alongside Adrian Cheng, CEO of New World Development and one of Hong Kong’s most influential businessmen, at a sustainability forum created to spotlight the city’s changemakers. In a statement, Cheng described Lance as a “doer” with a “profound influence in the Hong Kong community”. New World Development subsequently became the first real estate company in Hong Kong to join the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, with Cheng pledging to reduce the group’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 based on 2015 levels.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TATLER HONG KONGView All

ON THE CASE

Over the past decade, entrepreneur Wesley Ng has grown Casetify from a part-time passion project to one of the world’s largest tech accessories companies. Now, he is launching a new investment fund to build a global empire

10+ mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Black Beauties

American artist Mickalene Thomas, who has changed the way we look at Black bodies, is presenting her life’s work in New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong this autumn

8 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

The Kids are Alright

Entrepreneurs Shiva Shabani and Calvin Yu discuss channelling your inner child and their eyewear brand, Sons + Daughters

4 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Olivia Dawn Mok

The DJ, producer and musician blends classical training and modern technology to create her sound

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

A Whole New World

Ocean Park has resurrected its aquatic outpost for a new generation

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Best in S-Class

The new Mercedes-Benz S-Class combines form and function in a luxurious saloon

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Stranger Tales

Hong Kong’s first Palme d’Or Short Film winner Tang Yi says her victory is the result of being true to herself

5 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Green Fingered

Creative director and CEO Nicolas Bos brings Van Cleef & Arpels’ take on flora and fauna out of the workshop and into Hong Kong

3 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

Raise a Glass

Celebrated French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel worked with Dior Men designer Kim Jones on a unique costume for his induction into Paris’s prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021

What Dreams are Made of

Why La Prairie’s new Skin Caviar Nighttime Oil is the perfect addition to your bedtime ritual

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
October 2021
RELATED STORIES

SOAPS' MOST OUTRAGEOUS DEATHS

Digest chronicles the wild ways characters have been killed off.

10+ mins read
Soap Opera Digest
September 20, 2021

Making the right choice at QB

In the weeks that follow after you read this — and perhaps sometime even sooner than that — Kyle Shanahan and the rest of the 49ers organization will make a titanic decision that will have present, future and perhaps even everlasting implications for the franchise. It will chart the course for the team’s pivotal 2021 season while determining whether San Francisco really does have the juice to return to powerhouse status and again be considered a legitimate contender to get back to the Super Bowl.

3 mins read
Niner Report
August 31, 2021

Birth of something special at QB

Lance becoming more than just a challenger in debut training camp

9 mins read
Niner Report
August 31, 2021

49ERS STOCK REPORT

Taking stock of the 49ers by positional unit as San Francisco enters the heart of its summer training camp schedule and exhibition season, giving an indication of which way the team is trending in each area since the completion of the 2020 season.

10+ mins read
Niner Report
August 31, 2021

UNDER THE WEATHER

THE FACTORS THAT CAUSE CLIMATE CHANGE ALSO MAKE US SICK.FIGHTING IT CAN SAVE MILLIONS OF LIVES

3 mins read
The BOSS Magazine
April 2021

BOARD GAMES IN THE CLASSROOM

Gamers gather around a table to unbox a new board game or bring out an old favorite. Together, they enter into a unique experience of mental challenge, social interaction, and creative play — an experience that draws them together. But can this special experience have anything to do with learning? John Coveyou, founder of Genius Games, insists that it does. Whenever you take a seat around a table to play a board game, “your mind can’t not begin to pick up information about the world that the game is themed around.” Without a doubt, learning is part of the experience, but is it a big enough part to justify using board games in the classroom? If so, how can board games be best used for learning?

7 mins read
Casual Game Insider
Spring 2021

SNOT-COPTER: Drone at Work

THE BOAT IS on the move. It speeds over icy waters toward a humpback whale.

3 mins read
Spider Magazine for Kids
February 2021

TAKING FLIGHT

Rehs Contemporary Galleries’ newest collaborative exhibition with Art Renewal Center spotlights birds in art.

2 mins read
American Art Collector
October - November 2020

OPEN MIKE

LONGTIME TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS “CO-CAPTAIN” MIKE CAMPBELL UNLEASHES WRECKLESS ABANDON, THE DEBUT ALBUM BY HIS VERY PATIENT SIDE PROJECT, THE DIRTY KNOBS

10+ mins read
Guitar World
October 2020

HISTORY: The Cracker Kingdom's New Ruler

Lance stayed homegrown and humble over its first century. Can it still, now that the Campbell’s Soup folks own it??

6 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
June 2020